Non-compete agreement is valid even if employee leaves state

Suppose a Massachusetts employee signs a non-compete agreement, but then leaves to work for a competitor in California – a state that generally doesn’t approve of non-compete agreements. Can the agreement still be enforced against him?

Yes, according to a recent decision by the Massachusetts Superior Court. The employee was a vice president at the EMC computer company in Hopkinton, Mass. After 20 years with EMC, he quit to become vice president at Hewlett-Packard in California.

The employee had signed an agreement saying that if he left, he wouldn’t work for a competitor for a year.

In court, he claimed the agreement wasn’t valid because it violated the law of California.

But the Superior Court said that while that might be true, the agreement was still valid in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts law applied. So the employee was out of luck.

This decision isn’t binding in all cases in Massachusetts, but it’s the first ruling on the issue in the state, and other judges might well follow it.

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